I was driving with my mom. I remember this car ride so vividly: We were driving and I asked her, “Can I wear mascara?” And she was like, “What? I don’t know how I feel about you wearing makeup at this age.” When I got to 16, I started experimenting with the Dream Matte Mousse Foundation from Maybelline. I knew nothing about [foundation] at the time, so I just put on the darkest shade and, obviously, they never got the complexions right back then. It was just so funny how pasty I looked, but I thought, Yeah, this with some pink lip gloss. This is going to work. It didn’t work at all.
I remember, in 2015, when I came to New York. From Sephora down to CVS, there were options [for darker skin tones. In the U.K.], you’d be lucky if the range goes past a mixed-race girl’s complexion in some stores. What are we supposed to do with this? In South London, you can definitely find [shades]. In East London too, but some other areas? No. Over time, it’s gotten a little bit better, thanks to brands like Nars and Fenty. I go to Harrod’s to get my makeup. I’m a few-dots-of-concealer-lip-gloss-good-to-go kind of girl. I use two different shades of Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer: Café and Amande, mixed together. I have such nice chocolatey skin, so anything that’s dewy and helps with the glow, I love. [Then I put on] lip gloss I get for £1 — I think you guys call it the dollar lip gloss? I wear the £1 lip gloss to this day. I fill in my brows a little bit, with another £1 pencil, but not so much.
As for my hair… Washday [lasts for several] hours. I use this deep treatment I make with Jamaican black castor oil, and I also put in the ORS Hair Mayonnaise. I mix them together and put foil on my head. I look like a spaceman! Today I took my canerows out and I was so happy — the hair has just grown so much. I’m trying this new thing now where I keep [my canerows] in for eight weeks, but sometimes, because the hair grows so much, it makes the wig look like a helmet…. I should probably reduce it to six weeks and see how that goes. [In between washdays] I heat up hair mayonnaise and put it on the canerows, put foil on it, and just let the hair chill out for about 45 minutes before I take it off. There’s something about hot conditioner that works really well on my hair.
For my skin care right now, I use Dr. Barbara Sturm [products] and The Ordinary. In the mornings I’ll use the foam cleanser from Dr. Barbara Sturm, and probably two or three times a week I apply The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. It’s a 10-minute exfoliator and facial and it looks like blood. It’s really, really good. I also use the Darker Skin Tones Enzyme Cleanser by Dr. Barbara Sturm about three times a week. It’s an exfoliating powder that you mix with water to wash your face. I wear Dr. Barbara Sturm Darker Skin Tones Face Cream in the daytime, and the SPF 50 Sun Drops. I believe in SPF no matter the weather, rain or sunshine, 100 percent. For bed, I wash my face and apply Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate. I do try to keep it simple, but sometimes I go over the top and then I get a reaction. I’m like, God, I never learn. Calm down, sis. Calm down.
I’m so grateful to be Ghanaian, with this deep, deep skin that is just glowy. Light bounces off my cheekbones and my shoulders, no matter the season. I always prioritize dark-skinned women when I’m casting my music videos. I just believe that we deserve to be front and center. I never like to make the girls I choose look like backup. If you work on a Bree Runway set, you’re going to look like a star, just like her. For my “ATM” music video, I wanted it to feel like a day after work, of rinsing men of their cash, of everything that we deserve, and celebrating our wins. A chocolate showgirl movie, basically. — As told to Jihan Forbes
The Bree Runway Starter Kit
This story originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.